Acts 11:23 – When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
The second half of Acts chapter 11 emphasizes the importance of fellowship; and not just with other believers who are in our local communities, but with those who are separated by a significant distance.
Living in Arizona, our state hosts thousands of retirees who migrate south for the winter. Being a member of Lakeshore Bible Church of God, I often see a small fraction of that migration as other members of the General Conference travel south during this season as they spend a few weeks or perhaps months escaping the brutal cold. It is always an encouragement to see them, talk with them, and of course exchange a hug or two.
Our Conference offers multiple opportunities to gather with fellow COGgers throughout the year; Christian Workers Seminar (happening next week), to the Young Adult Getaway, Family Camp, other state and conference camps (happening in June), FUEL (in July) and the annual General Conference (in August). And I can’t forget to mention the reFUEL and Refuge events that take place in the fall and winter.
At any one of these events, we have the opportunity to be like Barnabas and Saul, visiting out of state with one another, catching up with friends, meeting new acquaintances, studying God’s Word together, worshiping side by side, praying for and with each other, and of course…sharing meals!
It is so important to invest in your local church. But just as valuable is investing your time and energy gathering with other like-minded believers who live a significant distance away. We are family and family needs one another.
Because I live in the southwest, I do not have the opportunities to visit with you all on a regular basis, so maybe this devotional message is more for me than it is for you. But I LOVE seeing you all whenever I get the chance. YOU inspire me. YOU challenge me. YOU teach me. YOU accept me. And that is what family is all about.
I hope that you have the chance to take advantage of one or more of our summer events this year. You WILL find yourself encouraged in the presence of fellow believers. And more than likely, you will be the smiling face that your brothers and sisters in Christ long to see.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How have you benefited from the encouragement of a brother or sister in Christ?
- How do you encourage others in your local church body? What connections have you made to believers beyond your local community – and how do you find ways to encourage and be the body of Christ to them?
- After reading Acts 11, how would you describe Barnabas? What qualities or actions of his would you like to grow in your own life? How will you work on that?